One of the more interesting subplots in the upcoming Super Bowl game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos is what, if any, kind of impact Seahawks' oft-injured receiver Percy Harvin can make.
Harvin was one of the bigger moves made by Seahawks general manager John Schneider last offseason, which included a lot of big personnel moves.
They also signed Harvin to a six-year, $67 million contract extension.
|Percy Harvin's Career Receiving Numbers|
But it was a hip injury that forced Harvin to miss the majority of the 2013 regular season.
He finished the season with just one reception for 17 yards, which came against his former team, the Vikings, back on Nov. 17.
Despite hardly playing during the regular season, Harvin returned for the Seahawks' divisional playoff matchup against the New Orleans Saints.
Harvin had three receptions for 21 yards, but he left the game early with a concussion.
It took just 19 snaps before he was out of the game and out of the Seahawks' offensive game plan.
Another injury, another disappointment for Harvin, but he should be ready to go Sunday for the Super Bowl.
Harvin talked during Super Bowl media day and said he believes he can make an impact, via Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith.
“I definitely think I can be a factor in this game. The concussion was an unfortunate situation that I wish hadn’t happened, but I’m ready to play football.”
How Harvin could be utilized
The Seahawks don't need Harvin in order to beat the Denver Broncos.
They've proven they can win plenty of games without him this season. But his skill set and playmaking ability would be a welcomed sight to their offensive scheme.
The biggest issue Harvin presents opposing defenses is what the NFL is all about—matchups.
If the Seahawks just simply roll out a healthy Harvin on the field, the Broncos defense is going to have to take note of where he's at all the time.
Even if he's just a decoy, the Broncos have to account for him, which already makes his presence an asset to the Seahawks offense.
Without a lot of game tape available for the Broncos defense to study, there's really no telling what the Seahawks might do with him.
Based on what they've done in the limited time available this season, the Seahawks will have a few plays designed specifically for Harvin.
The Seahawks aren't a heavy passing offense. They're going to lean on their offensive line and running back Marshawn Lynch, not only because it's what they do best, but they also want to limit the number of possessions for Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense.
By running the ball, the Seahawks can control the clock. If Harvin is out on the field during those running plays, you can be sure the Broncos defense will be aware of where he is at and what he is doing. That's Harvin affecting the game without having the ball in his hands.
This play below is from the Seahawks' playoff game against the New Orleans Saints.
It shows how the Seahawks game-planned a specific play for Harvin to get his hands on the ball.
You'll see Harvin motion back towards quarterback Russell Wilson before the snap. Once Harvin was given the ball, the lane had already started developing off the right end (blue square).
As soon as there's a lane, Harvin scoots through it and the play results in a nine yard gain for the Seahawks.
This play was designed specifically for Harvin to get his hands on the ball.
But this play is also now on tape for the Broncos to study so don't be surprised if the Seahawks run a variation off it in the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks also ran similar Harvin-specific plays out of the passing game against the Saints.
Here's an example of how they got Harvin involved in the passing game.
Harvin is going to run a little bubble screen out to the left flat.
The left tackle is going to engage the defensive end while the guard peels back to seal off any backside pursuit by a defensive lineman.
The safety lined up over him (blue square), and the outside linebacker (red circle) will go unblocked.
This play is scheming those two players to be in open space vs. Harvin.
But Malcolm Jenkins makes a great play from the outside cornerback position to fight through the block attempt and get behind the line of scrimmage to disrupt the play.
Harvin needed just one block to make a play, and he couldn't get it.
This is another example of the Seahawks trying to get Harvin out in space with the ball in his hands.
The Broncos have to be aware of where he's at on the field at all times, and their defenders need to make plays in space on the few plays Harvin gets his hands on the ball.
Harvin has the ability to break the game open any time he has the ball in his hands. It might not be more than eight to 10 touches in the game, but he'll get his opportunities to make plays.
Every Super Bowl seems to have that player who breaks out and becomes the star of the game who we didn't see coming.
Last year, it was Baltimore Ravens receiver/returner Jacoby Jones.
It's hard to expect too much, or anything really, from Harvin because he hasn't done anything this year.
Should the Seahawks spend a good portion of their time preparing for this game by working an inconsistent Harvin into their game plan?
That's a tough call to make.
The best answer is they'll have a few specific plays that get him the ball, and the rest of the time he'll simply be used as a decoy.
Anyone could be out on the field, but they could obviously be more effective if Harvin is the one defenses are watching motion across the formation.
There's a lot of things the Seahawks can do with Harvin before the snap. They can line him up in the backfield and motion him out to the slot, or vice versa, and even decoy some screen plays to his side of the field after the snap.
The chess match between the Seahawks' use of Harvin and how the Broncos game-plan to deal with it will be one of the interesting games within the game.
Harvin could simply get the better of the Broncos defense with his presence out on the field.
It may never be known, but it's something to watch for any time he's out on the field.